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The last decade-plus of marketing has been all about data—collecting as much information about your customers and potential customers as possible. But now that the landscape is changing as a result of privacy regulations, new consumer preferences, and the evolution of tech platforms, how will great marketers communicate the right message at the right time to the right consumer?

NFTs.

Yes, you read that right. Beyond the hype and speculation, NFTs present a real opportunity for marketers. They create a new, permissioned, pseudonymous way for brands to connect with their customers. They satisfy customers' need to have appealing advertisements appear on their phones without feeling like their identity is too transparent to the brands advertising to them.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are the traditional way to manage your customers' identities, and a good CRM should have four key aspects: contact management, interaction tracking, real-time communication, and workflow automation.

An NFT, or non-fungible token, is an asset on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that make each one unique and distinguishable from any other. NFTs function as a receipt, storing who bought or received or interacted with what at what time, in a permanent record saved to the blockchain. That record of two parties interacting creates a foundation for NFTs to function like a CRM.

So, are NFTs up to the challenge?

Functions of a CRM That NFTs Could Replace

1. Contact Management

One of the goals of blockchain transactions is transparency: that is, the owners of NFTs are inherently visible to the brand (and anyone) by virtue of NFT transactions' being stored publicly. Right now, those owners are identifiable only by their wallet, a string of random numbers and letters, which may not offer much functionality for linking to an IRL identity. But all of the other transactions of that wallet are visible, which can create a series of data points to flesh out the demographics and interests of the holder.

Moreover, some visible activities in a wallet are explicitly revealing, such as buying the yourname.eth domain—which is kind of like a domain name (e.g., www.metaxmoda.com) but for Web3. Such activity can make it apparent that a specific purchasing address belongs to a particular person or company, AKA "yourname."

As the space develops, new technologies will merge those identities to give marketers a clearer picture of their customers and prospects. And as people are explicitly buying or receiving transparent NFTs, there may be an implicit solution to privacy concerns—though that will likely be a topic of contention and debate in marketing.

2. Interaction Tracking

Imagine this scenario: You host an event, either in person or in the metaverse. There's a POAP token available to attendees, a "Proof of Attendance Protocol." Those POAP NFTs would be like concert T-shirts, if T-shirts were forever tied to the original attendees who bought the item at the specific gig and wanted a way to show that they were there. They are nontransferable; each one is unique, and they are saved to a publicly distributed ledger or blockchain. The attendance of that person, by way of a pseudonymous crypto wallet, is permanently recorded.

A POAP is the embodiment of authentic and exclusive; there's no way to transfer that POAP to another person or to pretend to have been at the event. Attendees can highlight or show off the POAP to friends and acquaintances across the digital world. The technology for that isn't seamless now, but it will be in a matter of months, much like Twitter verifying NFT profile pics.

3. Real-Time Communication

One B2C example that highlights NFT's real-time communication options starts with selling a physical item, say a pair of shoes, that comes with its mirror image, a digital counterpart that you can wear in augmented reality, on social media, or in a game such as Fortnite. A "phygital" offering, if you will. Buyers download the NFT to their crypto wallet, alerting the brand immediately to pieces of data that form their identity. And if the original transaction came with an email address, the marketer has an even more complete picture of the customer.

Marketers will know what other NFTs are associated with that wallet. They'll build a customer persona using verified information, combining it with other CRM data to create a complete customer profile.

And then the magic begins: customers' wallets act as a mailbox for the savvy marketer who's ready to "drop" information there, in real-time. You can message your customers; you can drop offers into their wallets; you can create unique, exclusive spaces—e.g., Discord channels or real-life and metaverse events—to bring them further into your world.

4. Workflow Automation

An NFT is, at its core, a receipt for a collection of smart contracts. Because the contract terms are executed as code running on a blockchain, they are inherently automated.

We will see more sophistication in those channels as brands harness the power of NFTs to communicate with customers, but the building blocks for automated workflows are part of the design of an NFT. As discussed previously, brands can airdrop additional NFTs into the wallets of NFT holders or invite them to exclusive NFT-holder channels and implement other automated workflow solutions.

The genesis of that technology means communication workflows within the primary NFT-wallet bond can't be too far off.

How to Get Ready for NFTs in Marketing

The huge surge in NFT interest means such technologies will be here in the near future. The foundation of the technology exists, and technologically advanced brands are testing the opportunities and limits of using NFTs to track and communicate with customers.

Startups such as Arianee are developing mechanisms to allow marketers to easily use NFTs to connect with customers—mechanisms that maximize the NFT customer experience by tailoring unique ownership experiences for customers. Any savvy marketer should be testing the waters personally, perhaps by buying or minting an NFT for fun, to see how various brands and groups use the technology.

Great marketers should also be learning what their customer base wants and needs from the NFT space. And in every operations discussion, they should consider what aspects might be affected by linking their traditional CRM to that new customer information channel.

Most important, marketers should be developing products and experiences that merit being tied to an NFT. It's fun and exciting to launch an NFT, but if no one wants to possess it, marketers lose the valuable opportunity to further connection with their customers.

Maybe NFTs won't fully replace your CRM, but they'll undoubtedly become a valuable channel in your mix.

More Resources on CRMs and NFTs in Marketing

Assessing Your CRM Implementation: Two Questions to Ask Yourself

What Marketers Need to Know About NFTs

11 Signs B2B Marketing and Sales Teams Need a CRM [Infographic]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of McKenna Sweazey

McKenna Sweazey is an experienced global marketer who has worked for brands such as YSL, Google, and the Financial Times. She's the author of a popular newsletter, metaXmoda, that covers evolving perspectives in Web3 marketing. Her first book, on digital empathy, is coming out this fall from Career Press.

LinkedIn: McKenna Sweazey

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